Perfectionism...and Mistakes

For the last $#@ years, I have been working to get a pants pattern that fits me well, so that I’m willing to wear something I make in public. A sewing friend, who is a patternmaker, sent me a PDF file of a newly adjusted version for me to put together and use to cut out a fabric sample. There were 25 sheets of paper for me to tape together before the outline of the pattern was complete. 25 sheets!

Fortunately, because I know what pants pattern pieces look like, I knew I would be able to do that. However, it took a while for me to even start putting the pieces together because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to line up the pieces perfectly, that the outcome would be “off,” that even though I know how it should end up, I’d somehow put things together so that it was so off-kilter that it would be entirely useless. For every piece of paper, there were at least four ways I could make a mistake – with the bottom, the top, and each side.

One day I was able to put three pieces together before I stopped. Then I was able to add another 5 pieces. Finally I sat down and added all the remaining pieces. What helped me the most during that last session was to keep saying out loud “It’s better to be imperfectly right than it is to be precisely wrong” and “This doesn’t have to be perfect yet. I can adjust as needed” over and over, reminding myself that I could figure this out, that I could adjust what I needed to, that this wasn’t the finished product that had to be just right.

What happened after that is another story. What I want to illustrate here is how our fear of not being perfect paralyzes us, keeps us from trying new things even when we have a clue as to what we’re doing, keeps us procrastinating even when it’s something we want to do, learn, or become.

What if we could enjoy making mistakes, or at least not avoid them too hard? What if we could remember that we’re just beginners when we try something new and we’re supposed to not know what we’re doing – yet? What if we made as many mistakes as we could as fast as we could – how amazing would our learning curve be!? What if we kept trying something new, paused to consider the results, and then kept trying? Yes, it would take time, it would take energy, it would take attention to what we’re doing, it may use up physical resources like paper, fabric and thread, wood, carpet, nails, paint, whatever it takes to practice.

But in the end – oh, in the end we will have built something physical, emotional, mental or spiritual, created something, learned something, accomplished something. In the end, we will have become a maker, a builder, a creator. We will have increased our skills, our knowledge, our experience, our abilities. And that’s a good thing.

Photo: Author


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